Sydney Pharmacies Are Selling Single Rapid Tests Out Of Their Boxes At Wildly Marked Up Prices

rapid test mark up

Pharmacies across Sydney are removing rapid antigen tests from their original packaging and selling them at wildly marked up prices — all while COVID testing clinics across the city are closing up due to capacity limits.

Sydney resident Anne-Marie Mannil told ABC News she used to be able to buy a five-pack rapid antigen test (RAT) kit for $50. This week, however, she paid her local pharmacy $25 for a single test in a zip-lock bag, which appeared to have been removed from it’s original box packaging.

“As the stocks are becoming more sparse, some retailers are taking advantage of that situation,” she told ABC.

“And divvying-up the packs, that they obviously get from the wholesalers, into single packs, into resealable plastic bags not too dissimilar to a drug dealer, it’s unscrupulous gouging.”

“When I made the purchase it felt a little bit dodgy to me and when I said to the lady, ‘Is there a reason why you’re giving them out individually?’ she said, ‘Stocks are so low, that’s what we’ve decided to do.’

“I said, ‘You know you’re marking them up at double their normal price?’ She said, ‘I don’t set the prices; if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.’”

Anne-Marie ended up paying $100 for four tests, despite packs of five tests typically selling for $50.

She isn’t the only person that’s come across pharmacies doing this either.

This week, Mohamad, a resident of south Sydney, told PEDESTRIAN.TV he was charged $20 for an individual rapid test after a chemist claimed they were out of box packs.

Batoul Eid, another Sydney resident, told PEDESTRIAN.TV she was sold five tests individually at $15 each, which also appeared to have been removed from their original packaging. She effectively paid $75 for five individual tests when she should have been able to buy a five pack for $50.

Aside from the obviously frustrating issue of having to pay ridiculous amounts of money for tests you need in order to keep yourself and others safe, this situation is also dangerous in how it clearly leaves behind those of lower socio-economic status.

Rapid antigen tests at the prices they are currently selling are for those who have disposable income of up to hundreds of dollars to set aside every fortnight — those who don’t should either not risk the joys of seeing others and going out, or go out anyway and risk spreading COVID.

Both of these options suck.

Unfortunately, these marked up prices are likely to get worse — Australia could be short of rapid tests until February. The demand for these tests is also ever increasing since many Sydney COVID testing clinics are closing, some indefinitely, due to a backlog of samples and a shortage in staff and resourcing.

A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told ABC that stores exploiting the shortage of rapid antigen tests by marking up goods to ridiculous prices can be publicly called out.

“Under the Competition and Consumer Act, excessive prices may, in certain circumstances, constitute unconscionable conduct,” they said, per ABC.

“Any such case would need to be ultimately decided by a court.”

NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the government would be keeping an eye on price gougers, and that Fair Trading would catch those doing the right thing.

“We will certainly monitor that. We don’t want anyone — supermarkets, pharmacists— in anyway, taking advantage of rapid antigen testing,” Toole said, per ABC.

“We don’t want to see people being hit in the bottom pocket because a chemist thinks they can make a quick buck at the end of the day.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also reassured action on those that price gouge.

“We will have a discussion with the suppliers to make sure there is no price-gouging,” Mr Hunt said.

“If there were, as we did last year, we would take strong, clear, swift action.”